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December 26, 2008

i need that little nibble more

Posted by dogpossum on December 26, 2008 5:48 PM | Comments (0)

We are sitting on the malodorous settee listening to CW Stoneking (pwning present, Squeeze!) and playing on our laptops. I have just finished all the cashews. I have also eaten the last gingerbread tree biscuit. The Squeeze has eaten the last mince tart. Neither of us can bare another piece of turkey, though we are thinking about having meat cake* and tomato soup for dinner.
The Squeeze has been making his way through some chocolate hearts (the 2nd mother apparently has a standing order with her chocalatier). I thought I might fancy a nibble of milky chocolate.
"Can I have a lick of that chocolate?"
I look up to see him carefully transporting it from his mouth to the wrapper. It is largely intact and has only a thin layer of kiss. I decide I need that little nibble more than we need to adhere to The Rules.

*aka stuffing that has not been stuffed into anything.

"i need that little nibble more" was posted in the category domesticity and fewd and gastropod and melbourne

April 1, 2008

go northcote go

Posted by dogpossum on April 1, 2008 3:25 PM

Northcote is apparently where it's at these days, and while I don't really give a shit about cool factor, I am a big fat food nerd.
So while Sigiri is definitely where it's at food-wise these days, their website... not so much.

NB If you're a building nerd (as I am), Northcote shops on the High Street front all seem to have fully sick pressed metal ceilings. There are a couple of amazing old theaters and ballrooms on Hight Street (The Regal is my goal, once they get rid of the stupid carpet in the ballroom itself!), the Northcote Town Hall will melt your brain with its beauty and of course the Westgarth cinema rocks.

Otherwise, there's the Northcote Social Club for live music.

"go northcote go" was posted in the category melbourne

December 12, 2006

djing for lindy hoppers at the speegs

Posted by dogpossum on December 12, 2006 4:52 PM

DJingAtSpiegeltent.gifI also played a set at the Spiegeltent during MLX. It was very exciting - a well paid gig, where I finally had the chance to play kicking lindy hop songs for a kicking lindy hop crowd. I was also lucky enough to share the set with Trev (thank the goddess for his generousity - I'd never have made it through three and a half hours on my own that night).
So the set was a combination of 'crazy exchange lindy' (dancers at exchanges are notoriously? famously? infamously? enthusiastic and open minded about music (compared to when they're at home)), Trev-inspired old school lindy stuff (ie things I dig but don't get to play very often here in my regular gigs), stuff that's just plain old good fun and a few other odds and ends.

It was an interesting set because I had to move from the disco/funk they were playing on the house stereo (I loath nasty transitions), allow for the juggling performance (I regret not getting the energy up before his act so I could get the crowd in the mood), take into account the fact that many of the lindy hoppers would be tired from the previous gig where (for example) Trev DJed an awesome set - the Gangbusters bracket where his tempos averaged 180 - 200 bpm. That's frickin' fast. And it was frickin' fun. I also had to take into account the fact that there were lots of non-dancers jiggling about on the dance floor.

There are a few rules for DJing at the Spiegeltent (so I've noticed):
1. Saucy = bad idea. The punters just feel uncomfortable. The guys don't dance, the girls feel silly.
2. Food songs = fun. Kids love them. Adults love them.
3. Upenergy = go. It's a fun place, so the energy needs to be fun.

The below list is the set I played that night. I started off with some unswing to segue into my set, then played some 'necrophiliac blues' because I wasn't sure how to get to the main lindy hopping event and was kind of finding my groove (I'm also a bit out of practice). In retrospect, I should have gotten the bpms up higher earlier.

CountBasie.jpgThere were a few bits that I really liked - the shift from Shouting Blues (1949) by Basie to Ridin' on the L&N by Hamp (1946) to Vine Street Boogie (1941) by Jay McShann (extra meaningful in light of his recent death) was really pleasing. Basie has a kicking rhythm section, of course at the piano himself. JayMcShann.jpgRidin' on the L&N has a really chunking piano/base/percussion section (of course - this is Hamp), but it really sounds like a train chunking along the track. The vocals (with funny 'uh-oh, is that a train at the other end of the tunnel?' stories) are typically Hamp-humour. And of course, the McShann boogiewoogie (slower than uberboogie, but with a nice chunker piano sound) brings us back to Kansas (where Basie got his first go), and had that nice, heavy base feeling, but with the lighter, move-yo-feet! feel that I really like. LionelHampton.jpgI'm a bit over Lavender Coffin, the 'gospel' track which followed, but it had the right funny-dark-humour feel I like. The Witherspoon track was a bit of a stylistic jump (to a bit of hi-fi, power-groove), but it seemed appropriate, as Witherspoon (most sexist man alive dead) got his start with McShann. It's also a great energy upper, and I thought that we'd gotten a bit low-tempo there with those other songs.

I quite like playing that version of A Smo-o-oth One by Cab Calloway because it has no vocals and people always ask me who it's by. The most common version of that song is one by Benny Goodman (1941) which sits on 126bpm, is nice, but kind of draggy. There's also a version by Junior Mance (not sure of the year, sorry), which is 125bpm and a big groover song - meaning, kind of dull. I like the Calloway version (181bpm, again I'm not sure of the year, sorry - stupid compilations) because it's great fun for dancing and pretty punchy.
Overall, I was happy with the set, especially with the fact that I played my first 'jam' - Jumpin' at the Woodside. The energy just felt high and good, and I just wanted to hear that song. The generally higher tempos feel of the night generally (and Trev's influence) helped me take the risk. And of course, I should have realised that such an iconic track would get the kids jammin'. I deliberately chose the later era Basie recording (1960), from The Count Basie Story CountBasieStory.jpg (where he re-recorded the seminal hits from his earlier band with his 'new testament' (and arguably better) late testament band) because the quality is sweet. The song before was hi-fi, and I thought a nice, clear hi-fi recording would work best in this situation.
Unfortunately, the base-controlling thingy on the sound desk (which automatically cuts in when the base gets too high, lowers the volume, then slowly lets it back up over a few seconds) cut in near the end and the volume was crappily low. But it meant that I could just move from that to a new, non-jam song without flogging a dead horse. It was a really fun jam, actually, and The Squeeze caught a few amazing photos.

So here's the set list:

Think-Aretha Franklin-109-Greatest Hits - Disc 1
Please Please Please-James Brown-74-1991-Sex Machine
Hamp's Salty Blues-Lionel Hampton and His Quartet-86-1946-Lionel Hampton Story 3: Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop
Amtrak Blues-Alberta Hunter-95-1978-Amtrak Blues
Why Don't You Right-Jonathan Stout And His Campus Five Featuring Hilary Alexander-118-2004
St. James Infirmary-Hot Lips Page and his Orchestra-122-1949-Jump For Joy!
Minnie The Moocher-Cab Calloway and His Orchestra-112-1931-The Early Years 1930-1934 Disc A
Every Day I Have The Blues-Count Basie-116-1959-Breakfast Dance And Barbecue
Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee-Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra-130-1949-Lionel Hampton Story 4: Midnight Sun
Flying Home-Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra-159-1940-Tempo And Swing
Good Queen Bess-Duke Ellington-160-1940-The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 10)
Stomp It Off-Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra-190-1934-Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford
Squatty Roo-Duke Ellington-202-1941-The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 12)
A Viper's Moan-Willie Bryant And His Orchestra-153 -Willie Bryant 1935-1936
A Smo-o-oth One-Cab Calloway-181-2000-Jungle King
For Dancers Only-Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra-154-1937-Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford
Shoutin' Blues-Count Basie and His Orchestra-148-1949-Kansas City Powerhouse
Ridin' On The L&N-Lionel Hampton and His Quartet-170-1946-Lionel Hampton Story 3: Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop
Vine Street Boogie-Jay McShann and His Orchestra-153-1941-Jumpin' The Blues (Disc 1)
Lavender Coffin -Lionel Hampton, etc-138-1949-Lionel Hampton Story 4: Midnight Sun
Good Rockin' Tonight-Jimmy Witherspoon-155-1998-Jazz Me Blues: the Best of Jimmy Witherspoon
Jumpin' At The Woodside-Count Basie and His Orchestra-278-1960-The Count Basie Story (Disc 1)
Sent For You Yesterday-Count Basie and His Orchestra with Joe Williams-163-1960-The Count Basie Story (Disc 2)
Apollo Jump-Lucky Millinder-143-Apollo Jump
Savoy Blues-Kid Ory-134-2002-Golden Greats: Greatest Dixieland Jazz Disc 3
Are You Hep To The Jive?-Cab Calloway-160-1994-Are You Hep To The Jive?

...I have to admit. I did play that bluesier stuff hoping to see a couple of the prissy lindy purists dance de olden dayes blues dancing. Ain't nothing finer than the power of the Pad o Plastic. I really feel that you can't dance lindy with any sort of serious cred if don't also know the blues with your body as well - the sort of blues that was getting around at the same time as this uptempo 'lindy' music.
And some lindy hoppers are just so precious.

"djing for lindy hoppers at the speegs" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and melbourne and music

October 18, 2006

we don't see so much lawn round here. concrete? yes. lawn? no.

Posted by dogpossum on October 18, 2006 6:55 PM

I found this article via B who's attention was caught by the article's argument that walking 1-3 hours a week improved women's breast cancer survival rate by 50%, but more specifically, B was interested in the (less excellent) results of chemotherapy. Go to B's blog and read her discussion there.

But my attention was caught not only by this article (which I traced back to the full academic article), but by the zillions of others which were, essentially, saying nothing more than 'if you get some exercise, you won't die or get sick'. It worries me so much that we have come to the point where we must beg people to walk just 1-3 hours a day so they don't die or get ill. I mean, 1-3 hours, what's that?
- walking half an hour every day. That might mean (as I do), choosing to walk to a further-away bus stop in the morning (let alone the afternoon!)
- saying to your partner "let's walk to the video shop to return this DVD - it's only 15minutes each way" and then doing it, and holding hands while you tell each other about your day
- walking to the park to look at the soccer doods running about. Or to watch the cricketers doing... whatever it is that actually happens in cricket. Manipulating those odds, I guess.
- walking about in a shopping center, aimlessly without buying anything. Or walking up the road to look at the awesome easter lights in the neighbourhood.

I know it sounds insane, but for many people, driving a car means not doing these little things. They drive to the video shop. They drive to the supermarket. They drive to the ice cream shop. They drive everywhere, even if it's only a 10 minute bike ride or a 20 minute walk, just because they have a car. And because they think of walking as something you get in a car to go do in a park. Or are too unfit to find any pleasure in.
I know I'm lucky enough to live in a walk-friendly suburb, but riding my bike around (horrible) Reservoir, I've noticed far fewer pedestrians. Brunswick has a lot of nannas - and you see them wandering around the neighbourhood. In Reservoir, at what would be prime-wandering time? Nothing. I don't know if it's a cultural thing, or because people are busy hiding in their houses, or perhaps a bit frightened of being exposed out there on those huge expanses of lawn*, but really. What are they doing in there?

Since I've stopped having a car (ie, since I moved to Melbourne, six years ago), and since I discovered that having a nice bike encourages you to ride about, I've noticed that the way I think about my neighbourhood, the way I think about getting to places has changed. I found those first few weeks of teaching so tiring because I was just getting on the bus, then getting off - I wasn't doing enough exercise. But since I decided to start the whole 'walk half an hour to the bus rather than 15 minutes' thing, and the 'ride your bike to the train, then train, then ride to the uni and then vice versa on the way home' thing, I've had so much more energy, and I feel so much better.
I'm hardly a super athelete cyclist. I ride very slowly, I'm afraid of hills (though FUCK you should have SEEN ME TODAY!!!! I flew up that Melville Road hill that dips down to the Merri Creek! I was AMAZING!), I don't like to spend more than an hour on the bike at any one time (actually, half an hour's about where I draw the line these days), I have no interest in developing any training routine or any of that bullshit.
I just toodle along on the thing. That is how I get around my neighbourhood - I ride to the shops to do the groceries (and lug the bastards home), I ride to the city to go dancing, or to see a film, or to go to the dentist, I ride to the GP (though riding home + pap smear = not great fun), to the pub, to get ice cream at 10pm on a warm spring night.
And it's enough - think of all those lovely hormones being stimulated (that seems to be the crux of the breast cancer thing - you're more likely to benefit if your breast cancer is hormone respondant; type 2 diabetes is directly related to not getting enough exercise, and insulin is a hormone, as we all know). Not to mention the way it triggers those sweet, sweet endorphines. I might be covered in sweat, with aching legs, a runny nose and coughing up a gut, but dang I feel good when I get to the university in the morning!

So, really, there's no point to this post other than to point out how sad it is that we have to push people to do so little exercise. We're not saying 'join a gym and WORK IT', we're saying 'go have a nice wander round your neighbourhood to steal lemons from the alley one street up' or 'take half an hour to hold hands with someone you love in the outdoors' or 'take that silly argument about which Buffy episode is best to the streets'. When you build that bit of exercise into your life - when you do the extra bit of walking to the tram, or leave the car at home when you go to get ice cream after dinner - you make so great a difference to your health that it would mean living or dying to someone with breast cancer. Imagine that - so little effort for such an amazing effect!

And we haven't even talked environmental benefits yet!

But I cannot over-emphasise how important riding a bike is to my lifestyle. That's how I get to the pub on Saturday. That's how I get to the city to go dancing. That's how I (now - yay!) get to the university (in part). That's how I get to the shops to do my grocery shopping. And I'm not a super athlete - I am a little, round person who gets very pink, sweats a lot and is a bit afraid of large trucks. Imagine if you were a super athlete!

Imagine if we all rode our bikes to work every single day! Or even just to the train station!

... and have I mentioned how wonderful it is to have a shouty conversation while riding a bike home from the cinema? It's the best.

*I live in Brunswick, ok? We don't see so much lawn round here. Concrete? Yes. Lawn? No.

"we don't see so much lawn round here. concrete? yes. lawn? no." was posted in the category bikes and bikes and melbourne

October 16, 2006

round up

Posted by dogpossum on October 16, 2006 9:35 AM

I have about 45 minutes before I have to leave for apppointment #2 with the dentist, and I'm surprisingly unscared. I slept like a baby, weighted down by a million blankets because we've gone from 30-odd degrees during the day to having to wear fleecy pajamas at night in the space of 24 hours. Ah, Melbourne. But if I continue to write about it, I'm sure I'll start getting scared.

I spent a very productive weekend, after a week of incredibly poor teaching on my part. Having the surprise root canal on Monday made for interesting lecturing on Tuesday, what with my numb lips and tongue and post traumatic stress syndrome. Tutoring Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was equally ordinary, though Wednesday was spectacularly bad. Thursday was ok, and by Friday I was back to being tired and an ordinary teacher. A run in with a particularly difficult student did not help (thank you for those public, in-class accusations of incompetency. And enjoy your future marks*).

This week, though, I did ride into the university, using a combination of bike (15minutes on a terrifying road to Northcote station), train (10 minutes in blessed airconditioning), 20minutes riding the terrifying streets of Reservoir (say 'res-ev-or' not 'res-ev-oir') and then a delicious 5 minutes swoop downhill through the uni. I tried riding back that way, but was frightened by the traffic (dang, those suburban types are completely un-bike-aware. And terrifying).
I also tried riding through the university to the next train line over, to Macleod station, which was a very lovely ride. Except for the bit where I got lost about 5 times and had to ask for directions at least 3 times. But even that wasn't so bad - it was a lovely day, I love my bike, and I was having a lovely time in our quite lovely campus (which is very bushy and has lots of wild life, including some bulllying magpies). But I got to zoom down a very very steep hill, through very lovely tree-ey suburban streets (they have GIANT eucalypts out there). And then I caught the train in to the city. It was zone 2, but I dealt with that.
So, riding to work: great fun. But good for sweat-making, which isn't so cool when you forget to bring a change of clothes and have to squash into an overcrowded tutorial room with a bunch of fairly prissy teenagers (unlike dancers, who really don't mind about sweat at all).
It's also a nice option because I've discovered that catching the Macleod line train to Westgarth rocks, because the Westgarth cinema (here is a link to the site, but because it uses frames you'll have to click away til you find the Westgarth, but you can read about it on wikipedia as well) has reopened. Admittedly, now owned by a megacinema group (oh, how I miss the insane amount of independent cinemas in Brisvegas), but still quite stunningly beautiful inside and out. So I will be dropping in there to see fillums quite regularly I think (especially as it's about a 15/20 minute bike ride from our house (about the same on the bus), where you ride along the Merri Creek bike path, which winds along the Merri Creek**. Could there be a more perfect way to spend an afternoon?

On a like note, we saw A Prairie Home Companion last week at the Kino, and we LOVED IT. It's just like the Muppets, but with bluegrass/country music. Same sight gags, though.

MLX6 planning continues, and I finally had a chance to get all caught up and up to date with my responsibilities this weekend (I do long for a whole 2 days in a row where I can just sit about and do nothing, or do things like ride to the Westgarth for a fillum). It is looking scarily huge, with a crazy amount of internationals and interstaters booked in. I hope our venues are big enough.
Brian has continued with another podcast (Fat Lotta Radio, fyi), to which you can subscribe by popping this url: into your itunes or podcast reader. This is the sort of thing that makes MLX so much fun.

...ok, I have to ping ding, chicken wings - got some stuff to do. Think of me at about 11am, will you?

*That was a joke. I have of course handed over this student's marking to course coordinator.
**Which locals think is great, but if you are from one of those lovely cities with lots of stunning parks and greenery (eg the Brisvegas river-side rides), this will look kind of lame. But you know, when you live in concrete-land, you don't sniff at a bit of green.

"round up" was posted in the category bikes and fillums and melbourne and teaching

October 6, 2006

Henry 'Red' Allen's World on a String

Posted by dogpossum on October 6, 2006 7:33 PM

I have my eye on Henry Red Allen's World on a String after reading about the version of St James Infirmary discussed on SwingDJs here. The song caught my ear while watching the ULHS finals (which I talked about here).

I don't have any Red Allen, but I'm definitely interested.
As for my stalking yet another version of SJI, alls I can say, is that if obsessing about multiple versions of particuar songs is good enough for Jesse in his October show, it's certainly good enough for me.

Although, on a side-note, one of my reasons for seeking out the older or 'betterer' versions of particular songs is motivated by the current musical clime in Melbourne lindy hop. There's been a recent rash of new DJs in our town, which I do applaud. I am particularly happy about the fact that most of (if not all of) these noobs are women. But I do have a great deal of issue with the fact that they're all into boring old groove, and that most of the Melbourne DJs playing this sort of action don't actually own their music - they've ripped it off someone else. Which is problematic not only for the fact that they're, well, ripping people off, but just as importantly for a community of dancers, it means that the same old music is being recycled through the speakers every night. We hear no music - only poor quality versions of ordinary songs someone's downloaded illegally (in a shitty mp3) and then shared around.
So when I hear a particularly shitful version of a song, I'm immediately motivated to play a betterer version so people can hear that there is more to the jazz world than fucked up versions of goddamn Lou Rawls goddamn version of SJI!
Dang - I am SO on my high horse here!
...the thing of it is, though, that un-groove is out of style here in Melbourne town, and even if I do play a 'better' version, it's unlikely that there'll be any dancers there who'd value it in the same way I do!


So, yeah, I'm hot for that Red Allen album, but goddess knows when I'd get to play it for dancers. Guess I'll just have to love it on my own. Like I loves de McKinney's Cotton Pickers and early Cab on my own...

"Henry 'Red' Allen's World on a String" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and melbourne and music and objects of desire

September 29, 2006

Australian-Melbourne-Irish-Global media?

Posted by dogpossum on September 29, 2006 1:22 PM

As some of you know, I'm booked in to give a paper at the annual CSAA conference in Canberra in December. I wrote about my abstract here and moaned about not scoring a bursary here.

Well, things have actually turned around a bit since then. I have actually scored a smallish grant from the nice people at the CSAA, which will cover my conference registration and part of my airfare. Yay.

So, come December, I'm flying up to the Can to talk theoretical turkey with acadackas, hang out with my old school friend Kate (no, not 'old skewl', nor is she particularly 'old' - she is a friend I have had for a long time) and possibly see some local dancers.

This was all very nice to hear - I'm quite proud of having scored a competitive grant from an organisation which will look good on my CV. I'm also happy to be funded for my trip to the Can - I need to get a job some time soon, and these things are good networking activities... though I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging about with old UQ buddies. And as you can see from this entry, I seemed to spend more time thinking about jazz than any professional business at the last CSAA conference.

So anyways, I'm off to do a paper.
Here is the abstract again:

Swing Talk and Swing Dance: online and embodied networks in the ‘Australian’ swing dance community.
Since its revival in the 1980s, lindy hop and other swing dances have become increasingly popular with middle class youth throughout the developed world.
There are vibrant local swing dance communities in Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Perth, Canberra and Brisbane for whom dancing - an embodied cultural practice – is the most important form of social interaction. Swing dancers will travel vast distances and spend large amounts of money solely to attend dance events in other cities. The success and appeal of these events lies in their promotion as unique and showcasing their local dance ‘scene’.
In travel itineraries which criss-cross the country, swing dancers develop networks between local communities that are not only cemented by their embodied interpersonal interaction, but also by their uses of digital media. In this paper, I examine the ways in which the online Swing Talk discussion board is utilised by Australian swing dancers to develop personal relationships with dancers in other cities, which in turn serve to develop relationships between local communities. This insistence of local community identity in swing dance culture in Australia defies a definition of a ‘national’ swing dance community. I describe the ways in which ‘Australian’ swing dance is an ‘unAustralia’ - not a homogenous ‘whole’ but a network of embodied and mediated relationships between diverse local communities and individuals.

Right now I'm having trouble remembering what I wanted to write about. I suspect there wasn't actually a lot of planning in there. But I have started to have some ideas. Of course stimulated by my impending trip to SLX (I'll be off to the tram stop in a few hours - nursing this horrid cold that's sprung up), but also prompted by planning for MLX6 planning.

Have a listen to this:

powered by ODEO

(which you can find here on the MLX6 music page).

Now, if that's not an advertisement for glocal community, I don't know what is. I mean, before we even get to the dance/exchange stuff, we're listening to an Irish guy pimping Australian jazz for a Melbourne exchange to an international audience. Neat stuff, huh?
This is the stuff about lindy hoppers that I really love: the way they go nuts and do all sorts of creative things - off as well as on the dance floor. And much of this creative work is centered on big dance events like exchanges and camps. There are lots of film clips, mini-films, websites, DVDs, etc etc - and a couple of special official CDs produced - but I'm beginning to get interested in the way swing dancers use radio and audio technology. Specifically, digital audio technology. I mean, there is all that stuff about DJing, but swing dancers do other really interesting things as well: Yehoodi radio is streaming music chosen by swing dancing DJs from all over the world, the Yehoodi Talk Show is really just a chance for a couple of engaging dance/music nerds to have a chat online and Hey Mr Jess is even nerdier - a particularly lovely DJ chatting about swing music and DJing with another dance/music nerd.

Hello podcasts.

This promotional podcast by one of our MLX6 crew is interesting for the way it combines samples from local musicians' albums (these are all bands we're hosting for MLX6, from Melbourne and Sydney) - they're all still living, all contemporary artists - with pimpage for our event.
I do need to sit down and do a bit of analysis of the content, but this is some interesting stuff. Radio has proved a particularly effective medium for connecting dancers in different countries - a natural complement to discussion boards. And this is one of (if not the) first Australian contribution to the international lindy hop radio world (excluding contributions by local DJs to the Yehoodi radio show) - this is the first locally produced Australian swing dance radio 'bit'. And it's narrated by an Irishman!

I do need to sit down and think about how this works: the way 'Melbourne' is presented, the way 'Australia' is presented, and how different audiences within and without Australia (and Melbourne) might receive/interpret/read this text, but it's a starting point - a bit of motivation - for my paper. At the very least, I can add that to my usual list of clips and photos for the presentation - always fun to do.


--edit: you know, part of my brain is also a bit interested in the way I've used that odeo plugin, there: most times you see those sorts of things they're 'invisible', in the way my sidebar over there is largely 'invisible' from the main body of the page over here. But I've actually framed that odeo thingy as something to use and listen to, rather than just stuffing it into my sidebar or at the bottom of this post. It's an interesting contrast to the livefm thingy over there in the sidebar (which is still stuffed and giving me the shits). I am, of course, delighted and fascinated by all this convergence action - my blog as combining audio and visual as well as written? Let's see a newspaper try that then! Of course, this issue is one I've been plaguing my students with lately in tutes - as I heard in a Media Report story about cross-media ownership and digital technology, the cross-media ownership legislation kind of collapses when faced with the internet and the fancy things newspapers have been doing online: they combine av with traditional 'static' text... and bloggage, and audio, and... lots of other lovely stuff.

This is such a great time to be a media studies stooge! How could you not love the internet?!

"Australian-Melbourne-Irish-Global media?" was posted in the category academia and conferences and lindy hop and other dances and melbourne and teaching

August 4, 2006

tell me place and geography aren't important here

Posted by dogpossum on August 4, 2006 10:41 AM

There's been a bit of talk about Helen Garner around the traps recently:

I wrote this comment in the latter:

(dogpossum on 3 August 2006 at 1:29 pm)
Nice post, Weathergirl.

I remember reading all Garner’s work when I was an undergrad - I fell in love with her style. In those pre-GST days I had enough cash to splurge on books whenever I liked.
TFS almost lost me for her, but I changed my mind… no, wait, I think I was just distracted by other authors (C.J.Cherryh, most probably - nothing like a little hardcore SF by a woman writer to get things in perspective)…
When I first moved to Melbourne I’d pretend I was recognising places from Monkey Grip (though I was finding it easier to recognise places in Brisbane in the Nick Earls books I was reading, probably because I was busy enjoying be Away From Brisbane at the time). And Garner’s pieces in the Age about ordinary Melbourne stuff helped me feel at home in my new city (what can I say - I’m a stooge).

I don’t find it difficult to enjoy the way Garner puts words together, and yet also have some trouble with the ideas behind the words. Frankly, a nicely written bit of opinion is far more likely to convince me to consider a topic than something difficult or clunky… I like the line about energy, and the thought that nasty bits of writing can inspire us to do great thinking and writing and talking ourselves. I mean, that seems to define feminsim for me: being inspired to think and write and talk and act by nasty bits of writing and ideology-in-action.

As for Garner herself… I met her once at a party, and knew her daughter through Uni, but that’s all I can say. I wouldn’t pretend to know her through her writing - just as I wouldn’t expect to know a blogger through their blog, or a singer through their songs. But I might admit to vague feelings or unsubstantiated impressions.

And had this response:

(weathergirl on 3 August 2006 at 1:33 pm)
Dogpossum, thanks for contributing! I read a tiny bit of Alice Garner’s PhD thesis (something about holiday imagery on French beaches), which I think she then published as a book. She inherited her mother’s writing talent.

But please don’t mention Nick Earls on my beat. I like to think this is about interesting literature.

I did start writing a response to the response, but I ended up feeling like an idiot. Some things are best written on your own blog (especially when they stray into true blogging territory: long and boring). So here it is:

I feel like I'm dragging the discussion off into irrelevent territory, but one of the things I liked about Garner (and Nick Earls, John Birmingham and Shane Maloney*, actually), is/was the way they write about cities and construct/represent ideas of community and place. I choose those three because of their accessibility, their popularity. I choose those three in particular because I was reading them before, during and after my move from Brisbane to Melbourne, in book and newspaper-column form (the latter is a reference to Garner's spots in The Age). I think that in that period of moving to a city where I knew perhaps 3 people, away from family and friends, I was busy making new social and professional networks - making this new city home (I want to reference the space/place thing, but I don't have the brain right now).

I was interested in the way these authors use lots of specific references to local landmarks and people to create a feeling of 'knowing the city', or more usefully, 'knowing the community' in which their stories are based. It's an interesting idea, especially when you take into account things like Garner's decidedly middle (or upper?) class experiences in Melbourne today, compared to the Monkey Grip days, Earls' Brisbane of the 80s, Birmingham's Brisbane of the late 80s and early 90s. These are quite definitely experiences of a city inflected by class, gender, sex(uality), education, market forces, etc etc etc. Yet they are all represented as 'common sense' or 'normal' or 'familiar', particularly in the case of Garner's work (which seems to rest so firmly on the strength of 'common sense' or 'diary-esque' writing as a tool to convince. I, for one, am a little sceptical of Garner's (occasionaly quite irritating) use of 'oh, this is just what I think, and I'm probably wrong, but...' arguments. Can you spell passive aggressive?).

But I'm interested in the way, while reading these people at that time, I could say 'hey, I know that place', or more scarily (esp in the case of Birmingham), 'I know those people!', and found that so comforting.
This is the sort of thing that comes up all the time in discussions about Garner's work (and in this thread above) - the idea of 'journal-diaryistic' writing and 'journalism': levels of 'real' and 'true' and so on. I think it's worth my pointing out, at this point, that I take Earls and Maloney as writing with as 'diary-esque' a style as Garner, largely in response to the incredible detail about 'real' places in their work. While Garner writes using her 'real' (and autobiogaphical) emotions as a bit of a blunt object in the 'reality' stakes, Earls and Maloney use 'reality of place' in much the same way.

That I could point to a building or street in Melbourne and say "that's where Helen went swimming or rode her bike or saw a band" or think "I remember that shopping centre in the Queen Street Mall", was kind of comforting for a person alone in a new city. It certainly shaped the way I thought about my place within my current and past home-cities. Nothing new for 'the media': kind of the point, really, constructing consensual notions of place and community**.
But I do think that it's a key part of Garner's work, and there have been quite a few comments already [in the LP thread] about the way she uses phrases like "Any woman who has left home for university could fill in the gaps": inviting us, explicitly to identify with Garner (or her characters), as if it was a natural and inevitable thing.

Isn't that interesting, that the language of domesticity (and Garner is all about domestic spaces) and 'home cities' and 'the familiar' is such a useful tool for convincing us that the author's point is 'just common sense'? That an 'emotional honesty' in writing is somehow more relevant or convincing than an objective account?

You can see why, at this point, I hesitated to post this comment on LP.

But my attention was caught by the way Weather Girl dismissed Nick Earls as 'uninteresting' work. Sure, he's no great literary talent, but some time was spent in that LP thread making similar observations about Garner - she's no great literary talent. But many of the commenters in that thread (and most of whom were women - perhaps just an indication of LP's reader/commenter -ship) declared an affinity or affection for Garner based on her use of the personal and the invitingness of her lovely prose.
I'd argue that Earls has similar appeal - the use of the personal, and an inviting style (in his case, though, the invitation was to share the joke, rather than marvel at a lovely turn of phrase). With Maloney, the appeal lay in the minutiae of everyday life in Brunswick/Coburg/Melbourne (my new home suburb), and of local politics (which fascinated a girl who'd just completed an MA on women in Qld politics). In addition, I'd argue that they're very Australian writers (though from different age/social groups), and I like to read in the vernacular.

Though we must keep in mind the fact that Garner's books have stuck around, while Earls feels a bit stuck in that 'grunge fiction' moment - do people still read him, or is it just me? Maloney, on the other hand, has made his mark on the pop culture landscape, especially with the television programs based on his work.

I know that I'm a little biased, but isn't this bias kind of the point? I was attracted by the invitation to share the everyday lives and everyday experiences of these authors' lives, and that made me feel 'at home' in a new city. I certainly wasn't 'sucked in' to believing that this was in any way a 'true' story I was being told. But that was part of the appeal: I was reading one person's interpretation and experience of a city, and that very subjectivity was part of it's appeal. It invited comparison with my own experience, and a dialogue with the text.

I should note: I was so interested by The First Stone when it came out that I did a pgrad essay project on the topic, exploring the newspaper responses to the book, and to their representations of 'feminism'. This was a sort of test-run for my eventual MA project.

...and all of this has strayed quite a bit from the love/hate/niggle-fest that began in the original articles on Garner and her writing, but, well, like I said: blog.

*It's worth checking out the 'official' Shane Maloney site and noting the background image of the site: Melway maps of Brunswick.
Tell me place and geography aren't important here?

**I'm paraphrasing old school Stuart Hall there

--EDIT: fixed the dodgy link up there at the top - sorry everyone--

"tell me place and geography aren't important here" was posted in the category books and brisbane and brunswick and melbourne and travel

June 27, 2006

look, we're on the internet!

Posted by dogpossum on June 27, 2006 12:54 PM

It's odd to see bits of my world on the internet. If you go here you can see a building that I pass every week as I ride into town to go dancing. And that's about the time of day I ride past (with allowances for seasonal variation of course).
The bit that's strange though, is that I don't often see the building from that angle - mostly as I'm barelling past trying not to die on the roundabout of death.

"look, we're on the internet!" was posted in the category melbourne


About dogpossum

i live in melbourne sydney, australia, like jazz music and dance, swear too much, sew, drink a lot of tea and adore puns. ask me about my phd.